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Attempt To Dismiss Wiretapping Challenge Rejected

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, September 8, 2006


In February 2006, National Lawyers Guild (NLG) members Steven Goldberg, Zaha Hassan, Thomas Nelson, Ashlee Albies, and Lisa Jaskol, and California attorney Jon Eisenberg brought suit in Oregon District Court challenging the legality of the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program on behalf of Plaintiffs Al-Haramian Inc. and two of its attorneys, Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor. Plaintiffs filed along with the complaint a sealed document which they allege proves they were subject to this program. A hearing was held on August 28, 2006 on the government’s attempt to dismiss the case based on state secrets grounds and to prevent Plaintiffs from having access to the document.

Judge Garr King of Oregon District Court issued a ruling on September 7, 2006 indicating he was “not prepared to dismiss the case without first examining all available options and allowing Plaintiffs’ their constitutional right to seek relief in this Court.” Judge King said that he could “not lightly accept” the government’s claim of the state secrets privilege.

Judge King joins a growing number of federal judges unwilling to abdicate the role of the judiciary to overbroad assertions by the executive branch in matters that may have national security implications. King found that the “existence of the Surveillance Program is not a secret, the subjects of the program are not a secret, and the general method of the program- including that it is warrantless- is not a secret.” He also held “[i]f plaintiffs are able to prove what they allege- that the Sealed Document demonstrates they were under surveillance- no state secrets that would harm national security would be disclosed.”

“It is particularly significant that Judge King made this determination after examining secret documents filed by the government, in which they argued that the continuation of this case would cause a grave threat to national security” said Ashlee Albies, an NLG attorney for the Plaintiffs. “We are pleased that Judge King has examined the government’s arguments and rejected such expansive claims of secrecy.”

“All Plaintiffs reject and oppose terrorism in all forms,” said Thomas Nelson, another NLG attorney for Plaintiffs. “This is not a case about terrorism; rather, it is about whether the President can ignore explicit Congressional requirements and then prevent the judicial branch from hearing a claim that those requirements have been violated. Plaintiffs are pleased that the judge’s ruling has preserved their potential day in court.”

Thursday’s ruling will allow the case to move forward to discovery proceedings and eventually a determination as to the illegality of the program.

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